Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My IRONCLAD Guarantee

I know the movies I have been talking about lately are my preaching to the choir & but you faithful readers will dig this one too.


Set in 1215 not too long after King John, Paul Giamatti (is wonderfully wicked) has signed the Magna Carta, he has second thoughts and tries to renege. But the nobles aren't going to stand for it and prepare a tiny force to hold Rochester castle, a strategic strong point.

Enter our Templar knight, Thomas Marshal played by James Purefoy, still channeling Solomon Kane, as a key defender against John.
There are some other fine actors - Brian Cox, Jason Flemying, and Charles Dance but the actor I was especially excited to see in action again is Vladimir Kulich.

Now I would not have recognized his name, but I would have recognized  Buliwyf from The 13th Warrior (a classic in my book). He is the captain of the Danish mercenaries employed by King John to win back England-and I was hankering through the whole movie for the point where he would fight Purefoy's Templar. (The image I found makes him look as how I picture my character Tyr, a Swedish mercenary in the forthcoming Roar of the Crowd anthology (& other antho's I'm working on))

The battles are bloody and visceral and IF you know who you are-you have my guarantee you are gonna like this movie.

Friday, July 22, 2011


“And Fëanor made a secret forge, of which not even Melkor was aware; and there he tempered fell swords for himself and his sons…” The Silmarillion, Chapter Seven: “Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor,” p. 71

My brother John and his wife Erin designed this sword and won the 2010 Sword Buyer’s Guide Designer Contest at Darksword Armory. I like it even more now that I'm seeing it finished ( I did vote for it) write more stories and be able to afford that Damascus version.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

Books Read Lately

Conan: Iron Shadows in the Moon Robert E. Howard, Timothy Truman, Tomas Giorello, & others

Despite Iron Shadows not being classified as "great" Howard I still find it to be an excellent tale and so much more enjoyable than say Dark Horses's previous collection Free Companions. Giorello's art is fantastic and Truman gives a faithful rendition to the original tale.

The downside to this collection is the the two parter short "Weight of the Crown" I suppose part one wasn't too bad, but part two was terrible. We are supposed to believe Conan finally becomes King of some backwater valley and lets it go to ruin because he has no more common sense than to just kill whatever comes his way. A year later and the princeling returns (aged multiple years somehow) and demands what is his right...and Conan just gives it to him and says 'sorry'!

Sorry Dark Horse, but the back cover said 'fan-favorite' "Weight of the Crown" and I just don't believe that could possibly be true-no fan I know of thats for sure.

B.P.R.D. vol. 4 The Dead, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis

I'm not a big fan of Davis's art, it may be reminiscent of Mignola but it just seems sloppy to me. On the story front, I'm still totally hooked. we get another addition to the team a Benjamin Daimio or Captain Zombie as Liz calls him because he came back to life-why and how we still don't know but he is a no-nonsense military captain and a good foil for the rather loose team of oddballs.

The B.P.R.D. team also moves into their new headquarters which appear to be haunted, great mystery keeps the story moving.

Save the Cat! Strikes Back, by Blake Synder

This is the third installment of screenwriter Blake Synders Save the Cat series, I still need to read the second.

Like the first Save the Cat, this bombards you with so many great storytelling techniques-even if you are not working on a screenplay-I'm not. But the list of hooks, beats and other catalysts make this a must for anyone interested in thinking about story structure. I love this series and I am not even a guy who ever writes so much as an outline.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thorton Wilder
I do try and read outside my preferred genre just to keep the balance up and catch up on classics that I burned from my memory of High School English. I've meant to read this for years and just never got around to it, but its fairly short and I found it to be a quick read for one evening.

I would have liked it to have some action, there really isn't any, but I was drawn into following the characters world. Wilder creates a compelling tale on why do bad things happen to good people? Father Juniper investigates the deaths of five souls who died when the bridge collapsed. Ultimately, Wilder leaves it up to the reader to decide the theological answer for themselves.

Bloodstone, by Karl Edward Wagner
I would say Bloodstone is probably the weakest of Wagner's works I have read and yet it is still magnificent.
Kane, yes that Cain, finds a great bloodstone ring--and this tale may be the S&S take on the Tolkien dilemma better than any other. The difference being our protagonist, an anti-hero if ever there was one, is seeking the way to engage the dark power of the ring and have dominion over all rather than destroy it.

Of course things don't go as planned and the force of evil is too wicked and deceitful even for the first murderer.

I love Wagner's prose, his gift of action and character, but a few spots seemed needlessly added to extend the novel-hence my thoughts that this is the weakest of Wagner's books, but also bear in mind this was still good enough that it is a reread. I return to Wagner quite often.

Friday, July 15, 2011

13 Assassins

"It is truly a burden being a Samurai..."  says Shinzaemon Shimada in his death throes.

This is hands down, the best movie of the year. While it has a 50 minute final battle sequence, and never a dull moment within that, it is at its heart a drama, not an action picture, so everything is building to the confrontation = Which is EPIC.

Rarely has a film made you loathe  the bad guy,  Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira, this much.
Commodus in GLADIATOR is a rank amateur in comparison. Every time you think he couldn't get any worse-he does, and yet its all still believable. Naritsugu as a privileged junior Shogun believes people only exist to serve him. I did not find his villainy cartoonish but rather all too frightening as entirely possible in the wrong/right circumstances.

Desperate to halt his forthcoming rise to power, and yet not dishonor the royal family, the Shogun's most senior advisor asks a trusted Samurai, to "Take care of Naritsugu".

This isn't a one man job, hence 13 Assassins.

As I said earlier this is a drama, because everything hinges upon a code of Honor and Duty to an extreme beyond the usual western mindset. My favorite other character beyond Shimada was Hirayama, Shimada's Ronin student, if anyone evokes that Toshiro Mifune characteristic in the film its him.

The other thing I liked was just the slight hint of the fantastic-like was that guy a ghost or not? You're not sure and the director intends for you to make up your own mind on what happened in a few spots.

Visceral and bloody, 13 Assassins is thus far, the best movie of 2011 in my book.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Azieran: Against the Drimlith : Book Review

Azieran: Against the Drimlith, by Christopher Heath

This dark fantasy novel moves at a breakneck pace.

From the synopsis
 ~ Sir Vaiden Erro is a knight of the Malkan Order, sorcerers sworn to uphold the ever-expanding mandates of the Calantian bureaucracy.

Originally assigned to guard an ambassador in a foreign land, it is through a twist of fate that Vaiden finds himself charged to help a colleague, Alix, track down and destroy the headquarters of the Drimlith Cabal—those responsible for the recent assassination of a prominent politician.

One thing I really liked about this was Heath's familiar yet unique fantasy world of Azerian. Against the Drimlith has a balance of introducing us to this fantasy world, giving us a backstory and yet never bogging the reader down. I was pulled along with the sorcerer knights, Vaiden and Alix, to discover the sinister mystery.

I had only read on short Azerian story before this - The Secret in the Mist, but Heath's writing fills you in on what you need to know and keeps the action moving. There is no ponderous convoluted worldbuilding here you are taken into the story. You smell the offal and fear the wyverns and yes, even chuckle at the orc's stupidity-because it works.

Another aspect I enjoyed was mixing of what we might view as era's. The Calantian nation Home of the Malkan Knights seems to resemble the late renaissance (albeit with French? manners and magics) while not far away Bludland is back in the grim dark ages.

We follow the Knights through a number of sinister obstacles as they hunt for the Drimilith, taunted by mysterious clues and messages from an exiled member of their order, culminating in a final showdown in the wicked Drimlith's lair.  This was my favorite part of the story and Heath has a way with words that tickles my pulp sensibilities.

I loved the finale with the Mecha Mage, Pantucci, and his help in dealing with the Lovecraftian Alien God-but I have to admit that the styling of the epilogue confused me a little since it didn't directly relate to Vaiden and Alix-it did tie into the story of Bludland and its god of the undead, Bakal, but it seemed an odd placement against the rest of the tale.

I am definitely going to read more of Heath's tales of Azerian. You can order a copy - here , here , or

Monday, July 11, 2011

Interviewed at Mormon Mommy Writers

This is how huge I am. I forgot that I was interviewed at Mormon Mommy Writers and that they posted it on Saturday - HERE

Honestly, it doesn't make me feel big, I feel stupid for forgetting-I appreciate the exposure and am grateful to Lisa Turner for thinking of me.

Singing Saruman

I had to add this here because you'all know what a fan of Christopher Lee I am.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Season of the Witch

My biggest motivation to see this was Ron Perlman.

Overall I came away saying this was "good" certainly not great but good-actually pretty good if just looked at as a Sword & Sorcery film, considering how dismal so many of them are. It could have used better characterization-but then again the main character was Behmen, Nic Cage, and he played it about the same as he does anything-perhaps the same with Perlman, but I like Perlman and the gruff tough guy thing - I actually buy that from Perlman as opposed to Cage.

Would have been nice if the soundtrack was anything to write home about but it was pretty forgettable-I didn't catch myself trying to see who did the score like I did with Centurion (Ilan Eshkri). But different than Centurion which was a suspenseful historical with a little extra blood splatter and tension; Season of the Witch is a dark fantasy with just a smattering of historicity.

Afterwards my wife asked - "What do you bet Sean Bean's Black Death will be a lot better?"

Dunno - good odds though.